China’s Influence Over US Universities Poses Existential Risks

December 21, 2021 Updated: January 3, 2022

Commentary

The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is busy developing high-tech weaponry. By the end of the decade, China will have “disruptive” military technologies capable of wreaking widespread chaos.

In other words, China is developing weapons that “will change the character of warfare.” Which begs the question: Why are U.S. universities helping China advance its military might?

According to a new report by the Foundation for Defense of Democracies think tank, a number of U.S. universities are closely aligned with various Chinese universities—all of whom are closely aligned with the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). The report warns that these Chinese universities are heavily involved in the PLA’s military buildup—including its nuclear weapons program—which continues to expand at a rapid pace.

Who benefits when U.S. universities partner with CCP-backed enterprises? In one word: China.

As the report noted, the partnerships strengthen “China’s broader military-industrial complex, including its nuclear program, cyberespionage platforms, and other sensitive weapons research.”

This is deeply concerning. The United States, until very recently, was the dominant player in tech and weapons research. However, things have changed, with China now the ascendant force.

Although Chinese universities have improved significantly over the years, China still relies on “acquiring technology by any means available,” according to an unclassified report by the Defense Intelligence Agency.

By “any means possible,” as you can guess, involves acts of espionage and intellectual property (IP) theft. The unclassified report was released in 2019; since then, little has changed. It’s common knowledge that the Chinese have been stealing ideas and technologies from the United States for years.

In 2015, the U.S. Naval Institute (USNI) published an article discussing China’s rapidly expanding military, and the fact that it had been (and continues to be) “bolstered by weapons cloned from the arsenals of other countries,” including the United States.

China has copied a number of U.S. aircraft, including the Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and the Northrop Grumman X-47B, according to the USNI piece. These designs were acquired through highly concentrated cyberespionage campaigns.

Since the turn of the century, U.S. defense officials have raised the alarm about China’s technical reconnaissance and concerted efforts to steal valuable data. Alas, their warnings have largely been ignored.

The aforementioned Foundation for Defense of Democracies report discusses the dangers of Confucius Institutes (CI), and the ways in which they serve as platforms that advance facets of China’s military-civil fusion (MCF).

For the uninitiated, the MCF has one aim and one aim only: to make the PLA a “world-class military” by 2049. The MCF is overseen by Chinese leader Xi Jinping, who also happens to chair the CCP’s Central Military Commission and the Central Commission for Military-Civil Fusion Development.

Epoch Times Photo
A human rights group urges Tufts University to close its Confucius Institute in Somerville, Mass., on March 13, 2021. (Learner Liu/The Epoch Times)

China’s CI-enabled alliances, according to the report, “include the establishment of academic and research partnerships between top-tier American institutions and Chinese universities supporting Beijing’s military-industrial complex.”

Under the MCF, China is actively targeting key technologies, including the likes of artificial intelligence, quantum computing, semiconductors, and aerospace technology.

The author C. JoyBell C. once wrote: “Don’t let a thief into your house three times. The first time was enough. The second time was a chance. The third time means you’re stupid.”

By allowing China to establish CIs on American soil, the U.S. government allowed the CCP into 120 different “houses” around the country. Although many are now closed, there are 30 of these institutes still operating in the United States. That is 30 too many. In this age of cyberespionage, IP theft, cyberhacking, and “intelligent warfare,” the United States continues to let China eat its lunch.

Imagine for a second if the shoe was on the other foot. Imagine if a U.S. equivalent of CIs existed, and imagine if 30 of these institutes were operating in China, conducting espionage, and spreading propaganda. How would the CCP respond? Not favorably, one imagines. Remember, the first CI came to the United States in 2004. That’s almost 20 years of thievery and lies.

According to Alex Joske, a researcher working with the Cyber Policy Center, universities must develop a “mature understanding of the Chinese state.” By working with CCP-backed researchers and scientists, they are enabling the CCP “to enhance its capacity to stay in power” indefinitely.

U.S. universities, either wittingly or otherwise, are helping a rival military become even more powerful. Of course, those of a more delicate disposition will read this and shout words such as “racist” and “xenophobe.” But, I contend, it’s neither racist nor xenophobic to highlight obvious truths.

The CCP is using U.S. universities to further its rather ominous agenda. Sadly, dozens of U.S. universities are only too eager to assist.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

John Mac Ghlionn is a researcher and essayist. His work has been published, among others, by the New York Post, The Sydney Morning Herald, Newsweek, National Review, and The Spectator US. He covers psychology and social relations, and has a keen interest in social dysfunction and media manipulation.